WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats are keeping up their election-year drumbeat on student loan rates, scheduling a Senate vote to debate legislation allowing students to refinance their debt at lower rates.
Republicans say it's a political gimmick that would raise taxes without addressing the real causes of rising student loan rates.
Without GOP backing the bill is unlikely to get the support needed to advance Wednesday. But the debate allows Democrats to showcase steps aimed at helping the middle class this election year.
The move by Senate Democrats comes after two days in which President Barack Obama made student loans a focus and announced executive action to limit how much certain student borrowers would have to pay.
The administration says the bill by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., could help 25 million borrowers and save the typical borrower $2,000 each over the life of the loan. It allows borrowers to refinance at today's rates. The bill is paid for by using the so-called Buffett Rule, which sets minimum tax rates for people making over $1 million.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said student loan debt is approaching $1.3 trillion. "More than car loans, more than credit card debt. It's something that is really overwhelming and overburdening the American people," Reid said.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said the bill wouldn't do anything to lower education costs or reduce borrowing.
"This is a bill that purely and simply is an election-year bill that allows them to check a box," Thune said. "And what we need to be focused on are not political gimmicks, but jobs."